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Many video chat applications have benefited from the coronavirus-driven lockdowns and Epic Games-owned Houseparty is no exception. The company registered more than 50 million new users globally in just 30 days during lockdowns, of which a big part comes from India. In a conversation with Mint, Quentin Staes-Polet, Epic Games India and Southeast Asia general manager, spoke about Houseparty’s growth, privacy concerns, etc.

Edited excerpts:

Where does India stand in your user base today?

From around mid-March to mid-April, we added about 50 million accounts worldwide. In India, we have about a 159 times growth over a recent 30-day period compared to the previous 30 days. India is definitely in the top 10 countries in terms of growth. A lot of the growth in India is coming from the metros, urban areas.

Did the plans for the app’s future change in any way due to the surge in users?

We are getting feedback from all the users and looking at these suggestions. We definitely want to add more content, games, etc. Few weeks ago we ran a three-day concert where a lot of the US stars from showbiz came to dance, release new music, etc. So we are definitely looking around adding content and the next step for us is to probably localise that content but I can’t share a roadmap for India just yet. We haven’t localised any content in any region yet, but that’s definitely part of the roadmap.

The competition is also growing here, like Facebook entered this space with Messenger rooms, what are your thoughts on that?

It is very flattering right? We’ve always believed that casual, empathy engagement is the way to go. It’s a confirmation of what we believe in. We will continue to do our job to make the app as good as possible and as easy as it can be for people to use. We are just looking at ways to please our customers rather than looking at what others are doing.

There have been questions about Houseparty being hacked and other privacy issues. Could you talk about what happened there?

Protecting our customer data is very important. When those rumours arose, we investigated them and found that they were unfounded. We believe it was malevolent, but we have not found out why. We put out a $1 million bounty on it to figure out where it was coming from. We are using industry trusted encryption and are approved by Apple and Android in terms of their data policies. As a policy, Epic does not sell customer data.

But you are getting a lot of user data right now, given the growth. What role will that play when you monetise Houseparty later?

Again, we do not monetise our user data. That’s like a principle at Epic, and we will never do that. The way we monetise is by providing additional service, like premium games, etc. If we monetise Houseparty at some point, that would be the model. It would not be an ad-based model like a social network would do.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Prasid Banerjee

An engineering dropout, Prasid Banerjee has reported on technology in India for various publications. He reports on technology through text and audio, focusing on its core aspects, like consumer impact, policy and the future.
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